‘I have learnt to take time out for myself and myself only’: A guide to anxiety

‘You can learn to be in control of your situation with anxiety’

It’s fair to say that we’ve all been hit by the pressures 2020 has brought us. Newcastle life is almost unrecognisable to the energetic culture it is known for. With students and workers coming together with their frustration on navigating Zoom lectures, and Fiat 500 Twitter going into meltdown over I’m a Celeb being filmed in a different location this year – desperation is truly hitting hard – we’ve even seen thirst Tweets targeted at Vernon Kay, of all people. This year has been one like no other for all of us, but it is important to remember that this year has had further detrimental and destructive effects on those who already struggled with day to day life before the carnage of Covid-19.

Anxiety sufferers consistently state that they feel as though they are among the most neglected of those battling mental illnesses. From the hard to define symptoms to the varying effects anxiety can have, those suffering from it find it difficult to express. Hence, those undergoing periods of anxiety are often left feeling that it’s easier to carry on unsupported than try and explain how they feel. Anxiety disorder is not just mind-consuming, but holistically-consuming to those it affects; average daily tasks becoming paralysing and impossible to face. We must not forget that the student population are far from exempt from these cases.

It is no wonder that those combatting anxiety are feeling more misrepresented and unsupported than ever under the current circumstances. This article alongside observers and professionals aims to remind you that you are always heard and understood.

Sarah – Journalism, Media and Culture

What do you wish people were more aware of regarding anxiety? 

“When you think of university, you think of nights out, big groups (when they were allowed) and as much socialisation as you could possibly cram in until you’re expected to get serious with your life. Even though so many people have anxiety, the attitude as a whole with uni culture isn’t too accommodating. The fact is that some people, like me, cannot always feel 100% in these situations.

“The whole mantra of going out and meeting as many people as you can sounds great in theory, but for those with social anxiety, it’s a nightmare in practice. I don’t think people realise that anxiety is irrational and just is what it is. It’s so much more than just feeling nervous. The number of times people have told me to ‘just relax!’ and ‘don’t worry’ in response to clearly being overwhelmed and distressed is actually shocking.”

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to support someone or learn more about anxiety disorder?

“If you know someone who gets anxious, please don’t just tell them to relax, it does nothing but infuriate them. I’m sure you mean well, but it really is in no way beneficial. I think people wanting to support someone going through this should: we are not avoiding you, we don’t mean to be rude, we really do want to show up to that thing or stay a little longer, but because of anxiety, it really isn’t that simple for us.”

Do you have any coping mechanisms you swear by?

“Personally, I’ve found that allowing myself to actually feel the full intensity of everything and reminding myself that the feeling is only temporary, is the only way to deal with my anxiety. Knowing you aren’t alone really helps. I didn’t know many people who felt this way and as stupid as it sounds, I convinced myself I was crazy and overreacting. For whoever who needs to hear this, you are not crazy, this is very real and I know you are so capable of getting through the emotions that you’re feeling. Although I don’t always practice what I preach, the best advice I can give is to try and identify your general triggers and navigate your way through it one step at a time.”

Daniel – Second Year Journalism

What do you wish people were more aware of regarding anxiety?

“Feelings of worry and unease define anxiety, and it is the mind that produces these sensations, which is something I am comfortable in admitting I have suffered from in my time. Much of this came to a forefront mid-way through secondary school. One year, in particular, I was in such constant fear of something bad happening to me that this worry mutated into so many more worries. I would be physically sick before school and, if I was going somewhere I didn’t feel in control, these feelings would follow me. It was a horrible time, I don’t look back on it with any fondness, and yet, strangely, I feel it is a significant part of my life I wouldn’t change. It taught me to keep going, even though you feel like you are going through hell. As I write this now at 19, I feel I have conquered my worries. I have the occasional blip which I have learnt in myself is something I always will have, we aren’t machines and will always have some sense of worry in life.”

What advice would you give to someone going through this and looking for support?

“I would urge anyone who is feeling hopeless to please keep going. You are not alone and you can learn to be in control of your situation with anxiety and not let it win. It is something I am so proud of myself for overcoming and it has given me an amazing sense of confidence.”

Katie – Graduated 2019 

What do you wish people were more aware of regarding anxiety?

“I’m a graduate who is stuck in the real world with my first ‘real’ job in communications. I studied Media, Communication and Journalism at uni and it was a whirlwind of excitement, anxiety, friendship and hard work. We hear so much about uni being the ‘best years of our lives’, but so much less talk on the emotional challenges of living alone for the first time and what that brings. For most of my teenage and young adult life, I have struggled with feelings of anxiety and being overwhelmed more than the average person. It was always bubbling under the surface and in October 2018 during my final year, it all became a bit too much.

“Going through a tough time mentally has made me appreciate and love myself more than I have ever done before. We are stuck with one mind and one body forever, so we need to look after it. This is often so neglected at uni, we tend to in turn neglect ourselves through incorrect eating and drinking as a way of coping. I have learnt to take time out for myself and myself only. I used to hate missing out on what my friends were doing and felt like I always had to keep busy otherwise I felt useless.”

Do you have any coping mechanisms you swear by?

“I’ve found it so helpful to watch some of my favourite films and TV shows; even though it’s such a small task, it can make such a huge difference. The same applies to taking time off social media: it is so mind-consuming and taking that time out for me was amazing. I additionally used meditation as a mechanism to help me. Another huge saviour of mine when I have struggled in the past is being surrounded by people who really care about your wellbeing and want to help you. I was so lucky to be surrounded by amazing and understanding people at uni. Being with them, whether that be digitally due to the craziness of this year, or in person, is such a great distraction and reminder that you are human, and your feelings are so valid.”

A message from me

My experience with anxiety has been a long ride, and I haven’t yet reached the destination I want to be at. My anxiety disorder encapsulated my first year at uni, I suspended my studies during semester two and then the initial lockdown hit – I was at an all-time low with no idea whether to change courses or give my former one another go next year. Having to move out of my halls, where I had the coping mechanism of socialising with the people who had supported me, into a headspace where I felt completely alone was so rough on me.

With the support of my GP, medication and my amazing support network, life began to feel slightly normal again. I do want to say though that this state is most certainly of a volatile nature, I still don’t know from one day to the next how I’m going to feel, so please don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t there yet – not a lot of us are! I’ve accepted that this fluid state will remain in my life no matter how “above” my anxiety I feel, and I refuse to let it define me. I have no rules I make myself stick to; sometimes your day needs to be dominated by your hooded blanket and a drag race binge on Netflix, so do it unapologetically. The days you feel more able to complete that lecture you missed, or tie up those running shoes and do that run that felt was impossible three days ago, will be celebratory days you can remind yourself of on your next Netflix and Deliveroo day, be proud!

What do I wish people were more aware of regarding anxiety?

It is everywhere! Please be kind to people and have patience with them, that slight mistake they made on your group project may have overwhelmed them with feelings of guilt and disgust at themselves which has been enhanced by your lack of tolerance with them.

Coping mechanisms I swear by:

A good distracting game on your phone (my personal fave is Codycross, I’m actually obsessed) and being that extra bit kind to yourself on a bad day, you deserve it so enter that overdraft for the £5 chocolates on offer in Tesco or the expensive takeaway you’ve been wanting to order. Make time for the things you love and take the best care of yourself.

Some additional handy resources:

Calm Harm – Helps you ride your wave and distracts you within desperate or difficult situations, this has helped me through anxiety-stricken experiences when I’ve needed a quick distraction.

Headspace – An amazing app providing day to day mindfulness and meditation techniques for sufferers of anxiety, stress, sleep, focus, fitness and everything in between! An App Store must!

Newcastle University has also launched a new mental health platform called TalkCampus. It’s free on the App Store and can connect you to students globally who are struggling with or worried about their mental health – your uni email gives you free access to this service.

iNCLude – A self-help app designed to help you improve your wellness and maintain good wellbeing patterns. The app is designed to help you get the most out of your uni experience and helps you create positive habits to ensure you’re focusing on more than just your studies.

Silvercloud – Comprises of various CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) programmes, which are customisable to your needs. This is downloadable to your phone or computer and Newcastle University Student Services can allocate you a practitioner to work through this with you.

Happy not Perfect – An amazing book by Poppy Jamie about millennial anxiety. The book offers an “I’ve been there” approach which is honest and uplifting, a reassuring read and maybe a great book for those who want to understand more about supporting anxiety sufferers.

Katie has written an incredible blog post (Anxiety and Me) about her experiences with anxiety; finding this was the motivation I needed to write this and break the stigma surrounding anxiety.

It is also super important to mention that the Newcastle University Mental Health and Wellbeing Team provide students with counselling sessions to students free of charge following an assessment and review process. You can find all relevant details regarding this here.

Important contact information for emotional distress and urgent help:

If you are concerned about your safety or feel at risk of harming yourself- contact 999 or visit your local Accident and Emergency immediately.

If you need medical advice or attention but it is not life-threatening contact the NHS 111 line. You can also use this if you are not sure what NHS service you need.

Samaritans: Contact Samaritans 24/7 by phone at 116 123.

Newcastle University on Campus Help: If you are concerned about yourself or someone else on campus, you can contact the University security line 24/7 on 0191 208 6817.

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